Esther Short Park was bequeathed to the City of Vancouver in 1853 by its namesake. Today it is anchored at its southeast corner by the 69-foot Salmon Run Bell Tower, made possible by generous donations from Burgerville founder and philanthropist, the late George Propstra, and his wife Carolyn. A Glockenspiel diorama emerges from the tower on a regular schedule to depict a story of the Chinook Indians.
Into the late 1990s, Esther Short Park was unkempt and crime and drug-ridden. Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, responding to citizen complaints, made the park's renovation his personal project. A little over a decade later, the park had transformed into the inviting community hub it is today.
George Propstra is credited for spurring new development in the park, first donating $2 million to park improvements and later contributing $1.3 million to build the bell tower. Private donations of $3.6 million and a City investment of $2 million were used in 1998 to redevelop the park. The playground equipment, donated by the Angelo family, is constructed in a Victorian theme that reflects the history of the park. Esther Short Park has proven to be a catalyst that has contributed to a surge of economic development in downtown Vancouver.
The City's first piece of public art, a bronze statue of "The Pioneer Mother" was ceremoniously unveiled in 1929. She still stands at the north entrance to the park. Various other attractions, including a skating rink, a wading pool and a railroad engine, have since come and gone.
Esther Short Park is part of the Esther Short Neighborhood.